Celebrating Food! Celebrating Life!

Japan Mar 2011 Day 6 – Nara Koen and Katsuga Daisha

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Early morning our 6th day in Kansai, we checked out of our hotel and proceeded to JR Kyoto Station for a train ride for a day trip to Nara. It was a fairly short journey, only 40 min if I recall correctly since the two cities are very close to each other.

奈良 Nara, like 京都 Kyoto is an ancient city. In fact, it is reputably older than Kyoto, being the capital city of Japan during the Nara period. The city celebrated its 1300th anniversary in 2010 and our trip was scheduled then, in hope to catch some of the festivities and celebrations. Alas all was not meant to be and the trip had to be postponed til early 2011. But that is another story altogether.

First thing when we’d reached Nara was to find a luggage locker at train station, which thankfully was not too difficult to locate. No way we are lugging our bags around the city! Then it was off to Nara Koen, a mere 10 min walk away, but we’d opt to take the bus instead. Recuperating from all that walking in Kyoto and saving our legs for all is to come!

奈良公园 Nara Koen is basically a vast grass field which seemed pretty ordinary to start with. But its “occupants” are far from being ordinary! Serving as “messengers from the gods”, sika deer roam the compounds freely without barricades whatsoever and despite the signage found all over the park to remind that they are wild, the deer seemed very domesticated and definitely very used to humans. Souvenir shops around the vicinity capitalise on the animals and sell “deer biscuits” which one could purchase to feed the deer. Judging by how brisk business was and well-fed the deer were, we weren’t about to contribute to the Japanese economy this way. So no, we didn’t get any biscuits, but most certainly had lots of fun watching others do it! Sometimes we couldn’t make out who was more entertaining, the people or the deer.

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Flying deer?
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Rickshaws like those we’d seen in Kyoto… but business seemed a bit slow here… perhaps it was still morning.
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A pack of biscuit at hand and one would find himself mobbed by deer from all directions, all looking like eager chicks waiting to be fed. The lady in denim shorts even got butted by a doe from the back. Guess she must have been tantalising the deer with a biscuit and the latter got pissed!
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Oh yes! The deer here are well-trained in combination of ninjitsu and sumo-wrestling!
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A large stag with his crowning glory sawn off looking kinda jaded, probably from his loss of dignity.
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A younger male with horns sprouting from his head. Oh well, it won’t be long before they are gone too!
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A little girl enjoying a little moment of intimacy with a sika which seemed to have taken fancy of her soft fleece-like coat.
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We were lucky to have witnessed a religious event taking place at 春日大社 Katsuga Daisha. Seems like the consecration ceremony of a new batch of mikos, shinto priestess.
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Overall view of the solemn ceremony
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Two main Shinto priests presiding the ceremony . . .
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Chanting prayers and calling upon the gods for consent and blessings…
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The head priestess of the temple, presumably…
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Like other shinto shrines, Katsuga Daisha also houses several smaller shrines apart from the main shrine. This particular one is for matrimonial bliss and happiness…
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And judging from the number of wooden wish plaques hung, a lot of couples are in dire need of blessings!!!
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Now this is a rather small but very unique shrine, serving as a 遥拜所, which mirrors the actual shrine situated in another location afar, not unlike both ends of a set of walkie-talkies! Saying one’s prayers on this end ensures that the gods would receive it on the other!
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This shrine, named 赤乳白乳雨社遥拜所 is unique in another way  – the gods worshipped are guardians of the fairer sex. Women come here to worship this deity for good health and in this case, a wooden plaque is offered for wishes with regards to the upper parts of the female anatomy, and thus correspondingly depicted in tan utmost direct way – a pair of voluptous bosoms!
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Prayer plaques from Katsuga Daisha for good luck!
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Having skipped breakfast to catch the early train service, we were absolutely famished. Thankfully, we bought two bentos at JR Kyoto Station to be enjoyed at Nara Koen, out of sight of the deer population of course!
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The first one named “Naniwa Mansai” couldn’t have been more appropriate, a mini feast in its own right, comprised of a bit of everything! A bit too lavish I must say but the bentos aint cheap!
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A more “normal” looking tonkatsu set. The pork slices are cold, but still very tasty! Or perhaps we were just hungry…
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After being properly watered and fueled, we slowly trotted our way to the next destination, 東大寺 Todaiji, another UNESCO site and maion tourist attraction in Nara City. More deer mob action along the way!
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A bozu begging for alms…
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I wonder who’s the protagonist and attracted who’s attention, the kodomo or the deer. Nonethless, the little boy showed no fear and the animal sensed no threat from him. Very brief but rather amusing encounter I must say!
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Last shot before entering Todaiji, the deer mobsters are a syndicate for sure! And they have a very keen eye on whom seem like a weak victim who would easily fall pray to their bambi-like eyes!

to be continued…

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12 responses

  1. Great post! Beautiful photos!

    Courtney Mara
    http://CourtneyMara.com

    February 26, 2012 at 1:41 am

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Thanks! Courtney!

      February 26, 2012 at 8:52 pm

  2. What a lovely post.
    The deer look so sweet and the bento boxes, amazing!

    February 27, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Thanks for dropping by! The deer can be quite temperamental! And yes! We love Japanese bentos! Couldn’t get enough of them!

      February 27, 2012 at 10:51 pm

  3. deer eat biscuits? i always have the thought that they eat greens..or grasses..luckily these deers come with no horns..otherwise to have attack somebody’s behind would be quite a real pain!

    March 1, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      yeah man! They feed the deer with biscuits! and I saw some cheeky teenagers had a go at them! Seemed like they were daring each other to take the first bite! Can’t be that bad right? 🙂

      March 1, 2012 at 11:20 pm

  4. I am so glad that you post up your Japan trip because I going to the same place in June. I already went thru few posts, will continue reading and also like to enjoy your beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing.
    Look at the Bento set, I salivate !

    March 1, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    • Alan (travellingfoodies)

      Hi Sonia!
      You are going to Kansai? I’m so envious!!!! How I wish I could go back again… can i sneak in your luggage? LOL

      March 1, 2012 at 11:17 pm

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